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Release 29.06.2020

The winners of Business Finland’s challenge competition for leading companies will create hundreds of new jobs and use hundreds of millions of euros for research, development and innovation investments in Finland

Earlier this year, Business Finland launched a competition where it challenged companies with international operations to resolve significant future challenges and increase their research, development and innovation investments in Finland. Three projects by four leading companies were selected as the winners. The winning companies have committed to creating hundreds of new research, development and innovation jobs and increasing their R&D&I investments by several hundred million euros in total. If successful, these projects will lead to additional investments of several billion euros in Finland.

Business Finland has promised to provide a total of 60 million euros of funding to the projects that win the challenge competition, payable once jointly agreed goals have been reached. The proposed projects were to have a significant impact on the R&D&I target of 4% and the employment target of 75% laid down in the Government Programme.  In addition, the leading companies were to boost R&D&I cooperation with research organisations and SMEs.

Research, development and innovation are more important than before as a source of sustainable growth

“We launched the challenge competition to create a major boost to companies’ investments in research, development and innovations. We have to find a way to stop the alarming decrease in corporate research investments, and we must make Finland a more attractive R&D&I investment target. Companies eagerly accepted the challenge, and we received plenty of brilliant project proposals.

We were pleased to see how the competition increased companies’ willingness to renew themselves and create new business linked to global challenges – also in cooperation with several other companies. The coronavirus crisis has further increased the importance of investments in innovations so that companies will manage after the crisis is over,” says Nina Kopola, Director General of Business Finland.

Leading companies submitted a total of 25 proposals in the two-stage competition. The chosen winners are three projects by four leading companies. The winning companies and projects of the challenge competition for leading companies are:

NESTE – Sustainable and globally scalable solutions for research and development of raw materials to decrease the use of crude oil

Neste launches a new research project which aims at developing sustainable and globally scalable raw materials and technology solutions for transportation fuels and the production of chemicals. Neste’s new solutions will decrease the use of crude oil and tackle climate change. The solutions are based on waste or residue raw materials, such as forestry or agricultural residues, municipal waste, waste plastics and carbon dioxide. The commercialization of new raw materials will require years of research and the development of novel value chains with several partners.

The project will allow Neste to clearly increase the volume of its research, development and innovation operations and centralise the operations in Finland. The increase in innovation will promote the competitiveness of Finnish research institutes and industry, and create opportunities for new start-ups. Neste’s solutions will assist in reaching the government’s target of a carbon neutral Finland by 2035. The solutions can also be utilised globally to tackle climate change. 

FORTUM AND METSÄ GROUP – New fibre-based products with reduced carbon footprint for the consumer market

The ExpandFibre programme aims to develop new business opportunities that boost green growth for several markets. The project consists of seven themes: textiles, biocomposites, packaging materials, other new fibre products, hemicellulose, lignin as well as raw materials and raw material manufacturing technologies. The programme will develop technologies and concepts for value chains based on straw and Northern wood, i.e. renewable and sustainable raw materials.

The technologies developed in the programme will allow new types of bioeconomy and circular economy business ideas to mature nearly to the commercialisation level. After commercialisation, they will create new jobs, new revenue and new export revenue in Finland. ExpandFibre will provide selected markets with alternative high-volume bioproducts with a clearly smaller carbon footprint than the products currently on the market. The programme’s main goals are being a trailblazer and an inspiring example to other parties active in the industry and to assist the development of an advanced innovation ecosystem. The key vision is making Finland an internationally significant trailblazer in the field of new, sustainable textile fibres. 

NOKIA – Making Finland a trailblazer in industrial 5G networks

Extensive utilisation of 5G technologies is the key in increasing the efficiency of industry. In this leading project, Nokia has three main goals which will clearly improve the profitability of Finnish industry and boost research and development investments in Finland: (1) developing industrial 5G solutions and speeding up their utilisation, (2) ensuring the availability and scalability of applications and (3) building ecosystems as well as testing and validating solutions together with industrial partners.

Led by Nokia, Finland will guide the global change in industrial 5G technologies and speed up the development of R&D investments. Finland’s efficient industrial and research ecosystems provide excellent preconditions for the achievement of these goals.

The projects will last for 3–5 years. Business Finland’s funding share is a maximum of 40%.  Business Finland will only provide the funding if the promised R&D&I increases and other goals are reached.

Further information:

Business Finland
Esa Panula-Ontto

esa.panula-ontto (at)
+358 50 557 7853

Juha Leppävuori
Manager, Partnerships & Ecosystems

juha.leppavuori (at)
+358 50 458 1372

Risto Sormunen
Head of Bio2X Development

risto.sormunen (at)
+358 50 453 4615

Metsä Group
Niklas von Weymarn
CEO, Metsä Spring

niklas.vonweymarn (at)
+358 40 547 6977

Pertti Lukander
Nokia Bell Labs Finland site lead

pertti.lukander (at)
+358 50 590 0708

Information event

The winners of the challenge competition for leading companies will be presented at an information event  on Monday, 28 September at 1:00 pm. Representatives of the media are warmly welcome. Invitations to the event will be sent at a later date.

Background for the competition

Further information on the challenge competition.

According to Business Finland’s definition, a leading company is a company operating on the global market that is among the leaders of its field and is able and willing to activate the business ecosystem in the international market to develop visible competitive advantages and increase exports. In practice, leading companies are usually large-scale enterprises. During the preparation of the competition, Business Finland had an extensive dialogue with potential leading companies operating in Finland.

Business Finland is a public Finnish organisation that offers innovation funding and internationalisation services, as well as promotes travel and investments in Finland. Some 600 experts work for the organisation at 40 international locations and 16 locations in Finland. Business Finland is part of the Team Finland network.